Data Importing with Magento: What to Consider?

So you’ve got your Excel file, or your Comma Separated Values file (csv), with all your data, neatly organized, and ready to go!  Nothing could go wrong!  This is seamless!  This is perfect!  All is well, and our products will exist perfectly! Well, in a sense, yes, you are absolutely correct.  In another sense.  Not at all….

The world of Magento can be a cruel mistress, that’s the result of having an incredible and in-depth eCommerce system.  What your greatest strength is, can ultimately lead to your biggest weakness.  Luckily you’ve got a full team of integration developers, ready to help you achieve your goals, and your wildest eCommerce dreams (as far as data goes, at least).  Consider the following questions before sending off your files to be processed!

1. What should my products do when they’re out of stock?
What do you mean what should they do?  They should be out of stock!  Duh!
Well yes, and no.  There’s a lot of solutions out there for how you want to represent out of stock products.

a) They show up in Catalog browsing, and Searching with text saying “Out of Stock”
The simple solution, and the often expected solution.  Do you want your customers to see your products are out of stock no matter where they are?  This might be the perfect fit for you.

b) They show up in searches only
This is mainly used for Search Engine Optimization.  Not many people will see these products, but your website could attract more hits!

c) Disable them entirely
Completely invisible to the website.  Every visitor should only see the products I can sell to them right now!

d) Allow customers to order anyways
I’ve got great relations with the supplier, next day delivery is guaranteed, and these products sell out fast anyways!

e) A combination of any of the above
In this scenario you need to create logic rules so that we can tell each product individually what should happen to them, should their innocent-selves be popular and snatched up.

2.  What should my products do when they change a category?
Well, they go into the new category of course!  It’s a question I end up asking every single client.  Some people like configuring products by themselves after product integration.  This could be because of limitations of a client’s system, or they may just enjoy customizing their site with Magento’s backend!  Here are a few scenarios to consider:

a) A new category placement is the only category that product will belong to
So you’ve realized that the Plasma TV you’re selling is actually an LCD TV.  Better make the change quick!  Luckily, you’ll have no problem since the change will be made with no problems whatsoever.

b) The product should be placed in the new category as well as staying in its old category
I know my catalog like the back of my hand!  If I make a change to a category, it’s because it needs to exist in both locations!

c) Keep my products in my sale category when they’re there, otherwise, I’ve changed my placement because it needs to go in its new category!
This is how most clients go.  And it makes perfect sense.  If I’m updating a products category, and you have this product on sale.  Of course you want it to stay in the sales category!  That only makes sense!

3.  How should I give you my images for your products?
You’ve got a big file of images zipped up.  Ready for us to just stick on your website.  Easy peasy man.  No big deal.  It’s pretty obvious to tell which image goes where.  To you yes, maybe even to us; but to a computer?  No way.  Computers, as amazing as they can be (and are!), have no intelligence.  They know nothing, and only do what we tell them to do.

a) Each product only has one image, you name your image by SKU
This is the simplest solution, but that’s only because you have one image per product to deal with.

b) Each product has a (comma seperated) list of images assigned to it in your product import sheet
Equally as simple, make sure you put your main image as the first one listed!  That’s the one that all your customers will see first!

Having concrete answers to these questions before sending off your product information can increase the productivity of the integration developers and minimize the risk of unexpected product behaviour.