StoreFeeder Key Concepts
Posted by Jack Liptrott on 11 Jan 2016 11:22
Last Modified by Adam Roberts on 30 Jan 2017 14:39
StoreFeeder is built around several key concepts that will greatly improve your multi-channel selling experience as well as save you time and increase your sales channels usability.
Below are the six main concepts that should be adhered to by all users.
1. Using meaningful and consistent SKUs
A SKU, or Stock Keeping Unit, is a identifier that is given to a single product and should be unique for every simple, parent and child product. This helps identify the product for both the pick, pack and despatch process as well as the listing process.
Unique SKUs are also required for correct order import, stock allocation and listing inventory update. As an order is imported, StoreFeeder will match the SKU found on the order against all the SKUs within your account. When it finds a match, it will take the quantity ordered from the product's inventory in StoreFeeder and allocate it to that order. The order will also be noted against the product for future reference.
If you are not using SKUs on channel then orders will be imported as 'Unrecognised Product Orders'. These orders can still be despatched, but the stock control process will need to be manually overridden to do so. Therefore these orders are not inventory tracked, meaning that items sold will not be subtracted from the total inventory of the product. You should also never use duplicate SKUs on products, as when an order is imported and a SKU for an item is not unique, StoreFeeder will not know which product the order relates to, and the wrong item could be despatched. Not using SKUs or using duplicate SKUs are NOT recommended StoreFeeder methodologies and will cause issues with processing orders, listing to channels and managing your products.
Using SKUs can also improve the pick, pack and despatch process. Having unique SKUs across all of your products will help avoid with mis-picks, through giving each item a unique ID that can be easily identified by pickers. Products can easily be assigned to a particular warehouse and give a pick bin location, further reducing your picktime and margin for potential picking errors. Finally, if you are picking using unique SKUs, barcode picking can be easily introduced to your operation. This will again improve picking efficiency and accuracy.
Meaningful and standardised SKUs can also help you with the listing process. While ensuring that the same product SKU is used when creating listings is not required, it can help you with organising and identifying listings both in StoreFeeder and on channel. Using a suffix or a prefix on your listing SKUs can also help you identify what type of listing you have on a channel, for example on Amazon you could have both a third-party listing and an FBA listing for the same product. Using a relevant suffix or prefix will enable you to see which is which at a glance.
Using a SKU naming convention will also make searching for a product or a group of products a simple process. For example, if you were use a set code (suffix or prefix) for all products of a certain type, then you can easily find everything that they relate to.
2. The Quality of Product Data
StoreFeeder can only be as good as the data that its put into it. This can be summed up with the principle of 'Good data in, good data out'. When initially importing your data for products, it needs to come from the most comprehensive and accurate source you have, be it eBay listings, Amazon listings, your website or a full product export from your previous listing tool/stock management system.
The data needs to include key information that includes detail of the product is not channel specific. For example, you would want to have a broad description that is free of HTML and that would be suitable to use on all your channels, high quality images more than 500x500 pixels and consistent variation attributes. You wouldn't however, need to have information like eBay or Amazon category information included as it is only pertinent to one channel and of no use when creating listing to other marketplaces.
Accurate weight data isn't required, but is critical if you are using a direct courier integration to produce your shipping labels and manifests unless you have an agreement with the courier for an average weight. The same can be said for the warehouse and pickbin locations of your product.
3. Product Format
There are three types of products in StoreFeeder. These are Simple Products, Variation Products and Kit Products. Simple products can only come in one format and cannot have variation attributes. For example, a Tent can be sold as an individual product with no variations.
A variation product on the other hand can come in multiple sizes and colours, in a parent and child format, all with unique SKUs, and needs to have variation attributes to determine the differences between each child. It is also worth noting that the parent product is not actually a physical product and cannot be sold itself. An example would be a sleeping bag that comes in different colours. Each colour would be a child product and have the variation attribute of ‘Colour’ to distinguish them. Additionally, each child product can be sold as a simple product of its own.
The final type of product in StoreFeeder is a kit product. This product is made up of products that already exist in the system and are sold as products in their own right. For example, you could have a ‘Festival Kit’ which is made up of a tent and a blue sleeping bag. The Tent is listed as a simple product and the blue sleeping bag is part of a variation listing. Using the Kit Product format, you can create a new listing that takes it stock from the component products so the inventory is managed centrally, therefore if one of the components is out of stock, the kit can’t be completely fulfilled and the listing will be ended.
4. Mapping Your Listings to Products
Like using SKUs, mapping your listings in StoreFeeder is a process integral to the system running smoothly and getting the most out of the software. When a listing is imported into StoreFeeder from any channel it will first appear as an unmapped listing, signified by a broken red chain link on the listing page as shown in the image below;
All of your listings will need to be mapped in order for StoreFeeder to make any updates or gather any information from them. When we import listings they are simply a snapshot in time, containing the information from the listing, such as inventory levels, as they were when we downloaded them. They are NOT updated if you make a change to the listing on channel before you have mapped them in StoreFeeder.
Listings will need to either be mapped to an existing product or, if the product does not exist, a new product created from it. Listings are mapped on SKU, if the product in StoreFeeder has the same SKU as the listing, then they can be mapped automatically using the 'Map all by SKU' button. If the product does not have the same SKU as the listing, but they are the same item, then it will need to be mapped by hand or if the product does not exist then it will need to be created. More information on mapping listings can be found in this knowledgebase.
Once a listing is mapped, then you will see a grey chain link icon informing you the product is mapped, as shown in the image below;
Without mapping your listings StoreFeeder will not be able to send this information to your listings and could result in products getting oversold.
It is also important to understand that you cannot map variation listings to simple products in StoreFeeder. As the product formats will not match, we cannot update the listing inventory from the product.
5. Order Fulfilment
When fulfilling orders, there are certain practises that should be followed to ensure that your orders are despatched in an efficient, timely and accurate manner. This ranges from the statuses that the orders are on, to the point in the process you mark your orders as despatched and the what to do with unrecognised product orders.
Order statuses in StoreFeeder denote exactly what point the order is at in the despatch process. There is an order status for every scenario that an order is likely to face as it passes through the system. A full list of Order Statuses and their meanings can be found in this knowledgebase. The status most important to the despatch process is that of 'Complete Ready To Pick'. An order with this status indicates that the order has both been paid for and that the item is in stock in StoreFeeder so is there for ready to be picked, packed and despatched. Only orders with this status will appear on the picking section of StoreFeeder, meaning you should only be allowed to despatch orders which you can fulfil. It is highly recommended that you DO NOT manually override the 'Complete Ready To Pick' order status as this could lead to unfulfillable orders or the processing of orders that have not been paid for.
The concept of pickwaves is also core to StoreFeeder. A pickwave is a group of orders assigned to a single picker who can then pick, pack and mark the orders as despatched. This allows you to run multiple pickers/picking teams at once and group orders to be despatched by region, shipping method, warehouse or warehouse zones. Picking lists and packing lists are produced per pickwave showing the picker exactly what they have to pick and which items need to be grouped into which order. Invoices can also be printed off at this point and will be produced in the same order as the picking lists and packing lists for the pickwave. Although you can despatch pickwaves before you have physically picked, packed and despatched the orders it is highly recommended you DO NOT. Marking a pickwave as despatched will send a notification up to your sales channels marking the order as despatched and sending a shipping confirmation email to your customer. If for some reason you cannot then fulfil the order, you then risk negative feedback as the customer will be expecting the order even though you do not have the item in stock.
Additionally, if you are using our direct Royal Mail to create your shipping labels on an integrated invoice, please note that orders will have to be marked as despatched before you can create your invoicing due to the fact that we will not have any tracking numbers until the pickwave has been manifested.
6. Stock Control
The final Key Concept of StoreFeeder is stock control. As long as the stock values in StoreFeeder are correct and all other key concepts are being followed, you will have the correct stock values on channel and therefore be able to fulfil every order received. Best practise would be to do a full stock take as the last stage of your account setup, before you allow StoreFeeder to take control of the inventory and price figures on your sales channels.
This would mean at the point you go live, the stock in the system is correct and you will just have to input deliveries into the system as they are received. It is not recommended that you run StoreFeeder with arbitrary stock figures as you will never know your correct inventory.