Spreadsheets are the tried and trusted method for managing product information, and it's no surprise. It is an very capable piece of software, which has been around since 1987, helping companies manage data in many forms.
But when it comes to product data, the last few years has seen the development of PIM systems. These are especially designed tools for managing that type of information. This development has exposed some inefficiencies of using spreadsheets to manage that type of information.
Here we're going to look in detail at 4 disadvantages of using spreadsheets to manage product information.
1. Can't store images
A huge disadvantage for spreadsheets is the inability to store and view images for an item alongside it's information. In the ecommerce world of today, photos are every bit as important as the information itself. Maybe even more so. Humans are a very visual species. Studies show that people remember 80% of what they see, but only 20% of what they read.
It's inefficient and awkward if a businesses product information spreadsheet has a link to an image or a file name. The photos can't be viewed alongside all the data, so checking them takes much longer. It also increases the likelihood of an error, as it's much harder to match up the correct image to the correct data. That risks sales marketplaces having lower quality images, which hits conversion rate.
What makes life much easier for data managers is being able to see the data and images all together. It's quick and easy to spot any mistakes or missing images. This is one of the core reasons PIM is much more effective for managing product information.
2. Doesn't prevent errors being entered
Whilst being a well established and excellent tool for storing lots of data, spreadsheets don't have any functionality to reduce errors. The software will accept any data added to a cell without issue.
We're all human, when managing huge lists of products, errors will naturally occur. With spreadsheets containing thousands of products, spotting them becomes almost impossible. This is a significant weakness because wrong data could be sat on a ecommerce page or website for months. It might only get spotted by a potential customer and at that point it's too late.
PIM systems have lots of tools designed to cut out errors. For example, they will only let you put a number in the price column. Or they ensure metric columns are always the same unit of measurement for a product range. Little things like that result in a dramatic increase in the quality of the product information, which boosts sales.
3. Isn't accessible to the rest of the company
When staff are working on an individual spreadsheets, it isn't easy for other employees to access the product information. Even when they access the sheet, they can't be sure they are looking at the most recent version of the data. This is further amplified in bigger companies, where several departments need access to the same data.
So when businesses use spreadsheets, product information isn't accessible to everyone at the company. But it should be.
PIM systems provide that opportunity. Data is in sync and stored in a single cloud based system and accessible to everyone. As a result, operations move faster and smoother. There's a boost to productivity.
4. Distributing information is time consuming
Of course managing product information is only part of the story. Potential customers and sales marketplaces need to receive this data, for it to really have value to the company. Unfortunately, this is where spreadsheets fall down.
They weren't designed for this purpose.
Although CSV format is widely accepted by sales marketplaces, the needs of each one is different. They all have different criteria for the data, whether its character limits or attribute names. Spreadsheets might have to be duplicated to fit each marketplace. At the very least, it's going to need a member of staff to manually upload product data to each location. It all gets very messy and time consuming.
PIM systems recognise the importance of sharing product data they have stored and are built with that in mind. Reliable PIM's should offer complete flexibility when it comes to exporting. Sales marketplaces can receive any data you want to distribute. Not only that, but a lot of them can send that data automatically. Massive time saver!
In summary, there are many disadvantages to using spreadsheets for product information compared with using a PIM. Whist spreadsheets are a great tool, the needs of retail and manufacturing companies have grown beyond them. Adopting specialist software designed with the sole purpose of product information management can turbo charge a businesses productivity.
You can explore much more about PIM software on our website. Check out our PIM for beginners blog, which provides a quick summary of Product Information Management (PIM) software. Or if you want to take the next step, don't hesitate to book yourself a free demo below. We'd love the opportunity to show how OneTimePIM can help you.