Gigantor Audit Month

January 12, 2009

Hey look at this, I forgot to update for a while. It’s been a little rough, we’ve been working on getting as much of the site up to date as possible as quickly as possible, so I haven’t had as much downtime to make videos or post about the exciting life of point of sale product management.

Part of the fun of being a manager of products is that I have to make sure they’re accurate. Manufacturers may change a few parts on a product enough that it gets its own part number, prices drop, or maybe even get bumped up, and I gotta try my best to keep the umpteen thousand part numbers in line and awesome. Fortunately for me, I stomped my feet and held my breath long enough that the rough portions got delegated to other people. In actuality, it’s much better for new employees to dive into audits to get a better idea of what we sell.

Barcode Printers and Mobile Computers have been avoided for some time, and now they’re getting the due dilligence they deserve. Even better, they’re the two categories with the most individual part numbers and most often changed part numbers. It’s a gigantic and fun event there. Did you know that there are 73 different Datamax M-Class printers? Yeah. 73.  And that’s just the ones I know about. Luckily for me, I get to pass the grunt work to someone else and only have to deal with imagery and content creation.

In the process, I’ve seen which products customers clamor for. The Zebra ZM400 barcode printer, which weighs in at a beefy 30 pounds, has actually sold quite a few since getting put onto the site. It could help that we’re running a rebate for it too, but hey, those things are big and expensive and usually seem like a once a decade purchase to me.

The art of the SKU

April 4, 2008

Being Product Manager means I’m inundated with products that are all totally awesome and all do everything perfectly. I don’t mind that, it’s actually fun seeing people really excited about printers that also read checks. They’re either tremendous liars or insane. Regardless, it’s a great show.

Recently, I worked on getting a industrial barcode printer from Zebra up on our site. It’s the S4M, and rocks 6″ per second print speeds and looks like it can take a hit from a howitzer and keep printing. It’s also been in my “put it on the site” queue since July and I’d be remiss to put it off for a full year.

This would probably be as good a time as any to outline the process I take for listing a product. It’s just so efficient and rad that I feel I must share it with you. Before I even start full on content creation (read: overusing verbs like utilize and provide), I trawl the manufacturer’s site for their description, data sheets, drivers, and big images. Big images are important. Nobody likes to look at blurry stuff on the internet. It’s just not done. Once I find the info, I dump my haul out and start in on part number wrangling and pricing. For most products this is the easy part, just rote data entry on 3-10 part numbers.

Once that’s squared away, I pour over the data sheets and manufacturer’s description to pick out what I want the customer to know is most important about the product. And thus begins the fun of using my math education skills to write descriptions that tell the customer about the product and highlight the best parts of it. I haven’t created the equation yet, otherwise I’d just dump all the terms into excel and have it create the sentences for me. Finally, I format the imagery for our reqs and dump it all onto the site. An average product takes the better part of an afternoon to create, and about 40 minutes to list.

But sometimes there are products that throw a wrench in my system such that it takes 3 solid days to get everything together. The only images available are 20×20 thumbnails, the descriptions are single sentences of “This is a barcode scanner. buy it”, or there are so many variations on the product that 5 hours are eaten just in squaring away part numbers and pricing.

The S4M, with the 50 part numbers I’ve found so far, falls into this category. This is special territory, and puts it in ranks with the Symbol MC70 and Intermec CN3. It’s not bad that there is this much variance within a product line, oftentimes it prevents consumers from paying for features they neither need nor want. I can see where it could cause problems for newer or less immersed consumers. The last thing I like when I’m researching a relatively major purchase is to have 5,000 slightly different choices. And now, as a quasi-shiftless Product Manager, it turns a quick product listing into a 3 day job.

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