Whether you’re planning on launching a webstore or you want to create a product catalog, it’s essential to diligently plan how you’ll position those products. Positioning your products not only includes how you will describe your wares in a way that connects with your target audience, but also the finer points, such as categorization hierarchies and pricing. In our experience, when launching an eCommerce website that links to shipping services like USPS, UPS, and FedEx, it’s equally important to go ahead and determine product dimensions and weights.
Make A Spreadsheet
I’ll go ahead and come clean here. I really wanted to write a blog post about spreadsheets. That’s what this is. I’m laying my heart bare for the world to see. I love spreadsheets. My crew makes fun of my spreadsheets. It’s cool, though, because I have them for everything, and they’ll never know a love quite like this one.
Nonetheless, when you’re dealing with a variety of data, you have to be organized, or the data is useless. Enter the spreadsheet. Creating a spreadsheet to organize all of your product information is going to make your life easier. If you’re hiring an agency like ours to create your website or catalog, you’ll save time and money by presenting them with a concise list of product info, so they don’t have to assemble it for you.
Choose The Right Software
First, you’ll want to decide which spreadsheet software to use. There is a handful of programs out there that will get the job done. Personally, I use two different ones, Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets. For me, it boils down to what my intent and usage needs are when creating a new spreadsheet. For cases where I need advanced formulas and file linking abilities, I use Excel. When I need something quick, easy, and super shareable, I use Google Sheets. Excel requires a software subscription to Microsoft 365, and Google Sheets is free. Ultimately, if you’re creating a simple product list, and you’re not already paying for Excel, Google Sheets should do the trick.
Make Your Columns
Now that you have your spreadsheet software figured out let’s dive into creating the layout of the spreadsheet. Now, we could discuss adding a ton of columns to create a detailed product database. To keep things simple, we’ll stick to the basics, and perhaps we’ll do another article on creating product sheets that help you determine profit margin, break-even points, and work with Square’s importing options. Here are the columns I recommend you start with: Name, Description, Price, Categories, Weight, Length, Width, and Height.
While this column is self-explanatory, it’s important to note that the name should be simple and easy to identify. If someone was searching for this product, would the names you’re using to label your products pop up as keywords? Also, consider how your product names can add intrinsic value.
Another critical area of a product positioning strategy is developing useful descriptions. Your descriptions should creatively combine enticing language that connects with the target audience with keywords and related keyphrase usage. In crafting your descriptions, focus on benefits over features, identifying how your product will solve a problem as opposed to simply stating what it does. It’s also helpful to pepper in unique selling points that separates your products from your competitors.
Standardizing honed product descriptions will also make your life easier if you have employees that interact with the public. You can quickly make training materials for new and current employees so they will be able to master your product knowledge and present a clear and consistent description of what you offer. It’s worth saying that taking the time to create standardizations of not only your product positioning but also other areas within your business operations is imperative if you plan on scaling your business.
Also, I can’t stress enough to make sure your grammar is correct. Whether or not you’re going to be the one in charge of developing content for your business, I highly recommend getting a subscription to Grammarly.
Of course, you’ll want to enter prices for each product, although we have received product listings for various projects in the past that lacked pricing. Pricing is a pivotal part of your product positioning and worthy of one or more separate blog posts that detail some of the popular methodologies for determining product and service pricing. If you’re a hardcore DIYer, you’ve probably already researched pricing methods and have some in mind.
THIS! Categorization is absolutely critical in your product positioning. If you have a variety of products that you want to sell online, your shoppers are going to have a difficult time navigating your site if you haven’t taken the time to categorize and subcategorize your products. Functional categorization also applies to thick product catalogs and useful tables of contents. Not only does categorizing make it easier for your customers to find what they’re looking for, but it also makes it easier for them to find products they didn’t know they need! To put that notion into perspective, consider the last time you were browsing an online shop. You likely came across a “Similar Products” section on a product page. The site wouldn’t know the products were similar unless they were in the same categories.
Full Disclaimer: I should warn you that this part of your product planning process could take the longest time, although writing your descriptions will be mentally taxing, especially if you have a variety of products.
I’ve found the categorization process usually is back and forth. First, you’ll want to assign the main category that comes to mind for each product. Take that initial list and decide which categories are primary categories and which are subcategories. This part of the process might be made simpler if you briefly switch to a word processor like Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or even a simple notepad app. Paste the categories into one of these programs and make it into a bulleted list. Arrange the subcategories underneath their respective primary categories.
Next, position the cursor at the beginning of the subcategory name and tap the Tab key to indent the subcategory. The bullet will likely change in appearance, too. You can tap the Tab key again if you need to make even deeper levels of categorization. Using this method will allow you to visualize your categorical hierarchy better. Here’s an example that rocks:
During your hierarchy planning, it’s likely you’ll end up with third and fourth-level subcategories, possibly more if you have a broad range of specialty items. While this might seem like thankless work, and maybe you’ll feel as though you’re overplanning, trust me, this will pay off. Aside from helping shoppers find what they’re looking for and discover new things, you’ll also curry the favor of Google Crawl Bots, who will also be able to scour and index info on your site with ease, thus further optimizing your website.
It’s also worth noting that doing a little competitor research can go a long way, especially if you focus on industry leaders across the nation and globe. Pay attention to how they’re categorizing their products that are similar to yours, making a note of what makes sense and what doesn’t.
Once you’ve listed and figured out all of your categories and their levels, hop back into your spreadsheet and list each category your products fall under, separating multiple categories for each product by a comma. (i.e. Sedimentary Rocks, Sandstone, Arkose)
Whether or not you plan to ship your products now or in the future, your customers still might find this information useful, especially on heavier items. Be sure first to establish a global unit of weight measurement for your site to avoid any confusion on your part, as well as on the part of your employees and customers (i.e., don’t use grams on one product and pounds on another).
Create separate columns for length, width, and height. You might think to yourself, “Well, I’ll just create one column and enter the info ‘LxWxH,’” but consider cases where you’ll need to parse your data and organize your products by their widths. If you listed your dimensions in a LxWxH format, you’d only be able to sort your products by length, since the length is the first number in the LxWxH series. Also, if you want to migrate your product data to an importable format for Square or WooCommerce, you’ll need these dimensions separated into three separate columns. Basically, this is a long-winded way to tell you just to go ahead and divide product dimensions into three columns. You’ll thank me later, I promise.
When considering keywords and search engine optimization, you’ll likely already have some great keywords in mind, especially if you were pragmatic with your categorization work. Keep in mind that each product page within a webstore will need a unique keyword, as your site’s SEO will take a hit for having multiple pages using the same keywords. The name of your product ideally will contain your chosen keyword for its page, but also including related keyphrases can boost your SEO potential. Consider each item and what the average person would type in a search to find that item.
Maybe you’re selling a specialized product that requires a lot of jargon to connect to your primary target audience. If that’s the case, consider how an under-informed individual would refer to the product when searching for it online. Perhaps you could use additional keyphrases that center around search terms some may erroneously apply to your product. Ultimately, there are different methods to hone in on your keywords, and with a little research, you’ll surely find a few that work for you.
Update And Adjust
As you continue growing your business, don’t neglect this crucial document. Be sure to either periodically go through and update your product list spreadsheet or, better yet, update it as soon as you begin planning new product releases. For the more savvy spreadsheet aficionado, you can add more specialized columns that help you determine markup, sales pricing, breakeven points, and inventory thresholds. Adding more specialized columns will surely give you more of a reason to open your spreadsheet and keep it up-to-date, as the sheet will have more usefulness.
By creating a tool like this before you get too far along in putting together any sales materials, especially for larger projects like eCommerce websites and product catalogs, you’ll save yourself more than just money and time; you’ll likely save some of your sanity. Pace yourself and start putting together a simple spreadsheet that organizes product names, descriptions, prices, categories, weights, and dimensions. Develop and polish your product information, working towards a goal to create standardized product positioning that can be recycled into training materials for your staff. Once you’ve completed your product list, don’t let it become obsolete; be sure to keep your data updated, and you’ll enjoy running your business a bit more!