This guest article is written by Alma Muñoz from SalesLayer
Magento, it’s the name that springs to mind when you hear the word ‘ecommerce’, and with good reason. Magento is one of the most complete e-commerce platforms and encompasses a wide range of options for every type of need, along with hundreds of free or paid plugins and extensions, so you can stick to your budget.
Some B2C and B2B companies that want to set foot on e-commerce shore for the first time, or that feel that their e-commerce platform is too small for them now and need a huge change, fear that Magento could be too much.
Too expensive. Too technical. Too difficult to use. Too nightmarish if you stop and think about the thousands of product references that have been mounting up over the years.
Overcoming those fears is the first step before pushing the ignition button. And we have some good news: to ensure a neat Magento migration and/or implementation you don’t need to go to Magento right away. Begin with what you are more familiar with — your own catalogs. After a safe and necessary period of internal organization, you will see how the first contact with Magento is much faster and easier than you expected.
The first few steps: What is the best way to synchronize product information in Magento?
Although practically anyone can use the Magento platform to design an online shop and sell some products, if we are talking at business level it’s more advisable to stick with a previous solid system.
Management software is not only a super marketed assistant for product and catalog managers nowadays — it really is a lifesaver when business grows and you find yourself with thousands of SKUs and assets in your catalog.
For this purpose, digital tools that you can find under the label of Product Content Management or Product Information Management are the best option to ensure a good catalog structure before beginning your adventure at Magento.
The secret of this type of tools is automation: very few steps and low technical effort is required to ignite an immediate and almost miraculous content coordination between your own systems and your Magento platform.
But you shouldn’t do that implementation at the drop of a hat. After some research to find the content management system that best suits your company and ensure that it includes a customizable Magento plugin, you must schedule the right plan and testing phase for a successful installation.
Key points to building a successful online catalog for Magento
You could apply the same recommendations to any e-commerce platform, as they all work in a very similar way and the basic rules for a good catalog are useful whether you are going to sell online or not. But Magento is a very powerful platform where you can boost your performance or easily get into trouble — it all depends on you following the precise steps, like a tower made of Lego bricks.
The beginning of any product catalog fairytale should always show the same sentence: Once upon a time, there was a company with super detailed and complete, but somehow simple and understandable, information for its clients.
Before connecting any system to Magento, it’s advisable to have a neat, organized and solid catalog structure plan. That means relying on a centralized database as single source of truth, and using a not very complex category tree to avoid annoying users that can’t find what they are looking for in an online shop.
It’s also important to differentiate product characteristics and descriptions, although at this point you might not want to create thousands of information fields that would affect the information and the synchronization speed between your databases and Magento. Obviously, the more complex your discourse is, the longer the time Magento will need to interpret it, so it’s better to be simple and legible.
And the key factor for online shopping: the product images. Remember to adapt your product images in your catalog to the right size and resolution. This will save you lots of preparation time before sending the content to Magento. Images can slow down the synchronization process and Magento generates its own resizes, so you don’t need to attach super large images files for small displays, like gallery thumbnails.
The most usual synchronization system between a company’s database and Magento works in a unidirectional way. You can decide what information and materials are being sent to Magento through your Product Information Management plugin, while being certain about the security of your own data. If something changes or anything bad happens in your online shop allocated in Magento (we hope that happens once in a blue moon), nothing will change in your main database.
As your content management system controls Magento, and not the other way around, you will never face the risk of seeing your data overwritten with older product details, and you can keep a regular content updating routine.
Some product information management systems include stock synchronization features, but it’s very rare. Be sure to get this right with stock software tools, like stock2shops. This is a critical point for businesses that develop a multichannel or omnichannel strategy and need to sync stock levels in different sales channels to the minute.
But it also involves an issue related to the previous point: if you want to keep updated stock information between your e-commerce channel in Magento and your central databases, you will need to apply a bidirectional synchronization with your content management system.
If you don’t do so, expect a chaotic future: your online shop only has 2 specific items in stock left, but as Magento can’t send this update to your database, your product content system still thinks you have 30 items in stock. And when someone contacts your customer service in order to check if they could buy 10 items in a point of sale, your employee will think they have plenty of them and will confirm a wrong piece of data; and begin yet another tedious email correspondence with an irate customer.
Best practices for digital catalogs and online shops in Magento
- Have a specialist in your team. Someone with enough technical knowledge and skills to understand how the Magento platform works, how to take charge of the integration process, and resolve any foreseeable incidences or complications during implementation or maintenance tasks.
- Magento is an e-commerce platform better suited for medium to large enterprises. If you are a smaller business or your company handle catalogs with just a few references, you can opt for a simpler, quicker and easier e-commerce alternative you can wrap your head around by yourself, and avoid complementary tools costs. But keep in mind that if your business and catalogs grow you will need to migrate everything to a new system — evaluate your available resources and growing rates.
- You can store infinite volumes of information in your product content management system, but don’t try to send everything to your Magento site. Try to apply a rational filter and decide what product information is really useful for your users and will be sent to Magento through your output connectors, in order to streamline the process.
- Prepare an installation plan and trial period, from the first content syncs to Magento facility tests. Ensure that every field has the same name both in your product information management system and your Magento site, and keep an eye on the most delicate elements, like images and custom attributes, which should be correctly synchronized. Set aside at least two weeks for analyzing the first results, gradually adding your full catalog to Magento, and testing the integration before the final launch.
- Once you have your e-commerce site ready and steady, schedule your regular catalog and content synchronizations for the night period (at least the night period of your main customers timezone), or on days you have detected there’s less website activity. As Magento is a super big and complex platform, information syncs can affect navigation speed and the general user experience in your online shop.
The most common problems that companies face when trying Magento for the first time are very short setup timelines, a lack of specific knowledge about catalog management and specialized software inside the team, and the (false) hope of uploading complex and large catalogs to an e-commerce site in a jiffy.
If you overcome unrealistic expectations, curate your product catalog with a coherent and centralized system, add specific and customizable Magento connectors, and save enough time for implementation and trials, moving to Magento could really be the best decision of the year.
Sales Layer is a Product Information Management system (PIM) which offers complete control of product catalogs both digital and printed. It is a cloud-based platform making product information management faster and more efficient for businesses across the world.