I've seen a lot of chatter online recently and in business magazines about the management of store inventory and how it relates to online advertising. Many of the conversations stem from the requirements for the new online advertising system called Google Shopping and how it will help online sales for this holiday season.
For today, the eve of Thanksgiving in the United States, I wanted to briefly cover the topic of online inventory, inventory uploads, and how that works with Google Shopping.
This new Google Shopping system gives retail stores the ability to turn their online inventory into individual product ads. To make it work, you first need a website with your inventory on it, then you need to give Google a copy of your inventory file along with links to each individual product on your website.
Google Shopping only works if your store inventory is on your website. Let's think about that for a moment; you probably have your full store inventory in some type of software in your store which is probably part of your point of sale system too.
It takes a lot of time and energy to enter your product information into your computer, and you probably would rather have your teeth drilled before reentering it again to your website. For this reason, you should be working with an inventory management program that can allow for an export of product list, along with the photographs, so you can upload that to your website. This is what we call an "inventory upload," and it's the fastest way to populate your website with product information.
However, I have yet to find an in-house inventory management or POS system that understands the needs of a website and how products need to be displayed on a website. The popular jewelry software companies do provide product exports, but with limited information, like a price and description. The truth is that you need a whole lot more online in order to attract your customers to your website and stay there.
When my company sets up a website for a retail jeweler, we give them an online product database that has more than 100 specific fields for jewelry. Not just the general description, but also fields like gram weight, total carat weight, gemstone types, and even the finish of the jewelry. Although all it might seem like trivial information to include on a website, the reality is that it helps close the sale.
When selling jewelry online, you need to realize that the person is not holding it in their hand, and they can't try it on. So you need to explain every last detail to them.
Instead of managing your inventory on your computer first, it makes more sense to manage your catalog online and then download it back to your in-house system, assuming it allows for imports. Be aware that this idea has the technical issue of managing inventory control, but you'd have to talk to your developer about that.
With regard to Google Shopping, once you've tied your live store inventory to the website you can then participate with this new online advertising method. With the live inventory tie-in, the local retailer has the extra benefit of showing their product ads to smartphone users who are looking for in-stock inventory nearby. In fact, the ads will show how many feet away the products are.
Google requires that you update the Shopping database as often as there are changes in your inventory. Although it's against their terms of service to have an out of stock product appearing in your local live inventory list, I'm not sure how they intend to police this. You'll have to work with your website programmer to set up an inventory transfer that jumps from the website to Google Shopping as frequently as needed.
The bottom line of today's Daily Golden Nugget is for you to realize that your online inventory is becoming more and more important. Although some customers will shop for designer brands and be satisfied to find a blog post about them on your website, most customers want to minimize their in-store time by pre-shopping through your online catalog.
Give them what they want: an online catalog with plenty of product details.