It’s all about SKU
How and why we built a home for SKU data
At SupplyCompass, we’ve been thinking about SKUs for a while. Having a good handle on SKU codes and accurate SKU level product information is key for sustainability, for strong integrations with ERP, eComm platforms, and analytics tools. And since we’re focusing on building a bunch of integrations this year, now was the time for us to do a deep dive!
However, that’s not the only reason why we decided to shape up this feature too.
Home for Product Data
After sitting on lots of calls over the past 6–9 months with brands around the world, we heard them time and time again talk about their challenges around not having a home for product data.
“It’s super bitty and messy, hard to search”
“It's so hard to find the information I need without asking 5 people”
“How do I know it’s actually still accurate?
The Journey of a Product
When thinking about a home for product data, you need to consider who is responsible for product data across the entire journey from creation, development, ordering production, through to delivery.
Products go on a journey. They don’t get magically created and completed on raising a purchase order. Their journey starts long before that, and also carry on after. A product technically starts or gets incepted by design (or even prior to that - planning). It may be then handed over to product development, garment tech, and sampling and then have a PO placed against it. This is typically where product data is formalised into a system. Crucially there may be changes to that product after this point, for example, the name or fabrication. It’s constantly evolving.
How do you capture the data at the start of a product’s journey and make sure it is updated in real-time as changes happen throughout its lifecycle?
Phase 1 — Research
We went out to conduct more detailed research based on some common recurring problems we were hearing from brands;
- Design, tech pack and order data is disconnected, so it’s hard to get one single, accurate view of all of these together, filter by attributes and create reports.
- If one team makes a change in one spreadsheet or tech, it’s near impossible to update everyone (due to the above)
- No single home for product data, so duplication and inaccuracies are common.
Some key learnings
For most, each team would handle their product data in their own way, their own sheets, their own structure and rules. It worked for them, but not for everyone else in the business. Then we’d see that they would kind of merge them sporadically into a master sheet, or “bible” that was shared across teams.
The key challenge is that data changes. And, those teams who are responsible for product creation and product data enrichment aren’t generally using / accessing these systems like PIM or ERP (if they have one). It wasn't a surprise that this isn’t really working for people.
Phase 2: Writing the Brief and Prototyping
The questions we put to our product, UX/UI, CX, design and tech team
Connect the dots
How do we connect design, product, supplier and order data together in one single view?
Accurate and Live
How do we make sure that (expected) changes in design/tech pack detail are automatically reflected updated with no integrations or syncing necessary?
How do we make it easily accessible by all teams in the company — product data is a company-wide priority remember?
How do we make it easy for each team to search, filter, view and extract exactly the information they need?
How do we make sure information updates are easy to update but don’t make it so easy that critical mistakes can be made or key info deleted?
Easily get data in and out
How do we make it easy to get product data in and out?
The Design Guidelines the team received.
Just because this is more of a search, list and reporting feature doesn’t mean it has to be dry. We needed to make sure it was still visual, with nice thumbnails and was super intuitive so that teams didn’t need HOURS of training to understand how to use
Less is more
Let’s not show everything. eg. there are 20+ filters, just because we’ve built it they don’t need to be showing all the time.
Let’s make it easy to view the data differently — eg. SKU and Style Level
Enter SKU Explorer
What we ended up with is a new feature called “SKU Explorer”. This is a new feature within the main navigation bar. Since not every team cares about the same thing, here are some specific benefits for each team and role.
Everyone in the biz needs to access accurate product, supply chain and order information
Answer the product questions that keep you up at night — then go back to sleep.
Stay close to your products as your team grows and your day to day involvement reduces. SKU Explorer gives you one place to view all your product data & see status across Styles.
For Creators & builders (Designers, Product Development / Garment Tech)
Use it to see your entire range split by product type, materials, prints etc. (see at a Style level). See what’s missing and update the rest of the team about the status of styles
Love making products? Hate all the interruptions.
Empower everyone who depends on good product data to answer their own questions and go to market with confidence they’ve got the right information. Product and production data can be shared with wider teams (e.g. warehouse, eComm, marketing), generate weekly reports, set filters for standard reporting etc.
Got a product question?
Go to the source of product information and find the stuff that customers are asking for, that isn’t on the product listing. Customer service teams often have to look in 3–4 places to find answers to product questions, SKU Explorer gives them one.
Product data is everyone’s business.
For many fashion brands, the job of making sure data is passed between teams falls to operations. If there are integrations involved, you’re often the one managing them. You’re likely to be creating SKUs in a spreadsheet or your e-commerce platform and exporting CSVs and sharing it across the business from there. SKU Explorer is where SKUs start their life and because it’s easy to use and get data out of you can send everyone there to get what they need.